Learning tastes best when it’s contextualized.
While one could think that all the topics or themes that are outlined in a given curriculum are ‘contextualized by nature’ within the architecture of the subject we teach, the truth is that these topics/themes are not given the chance to coexist with information from different subjects so that learners observe how knowledge is interconnected and how no piece of knowledge exists in isolation.
Contexts for contexts for teaching are like kitchens where one is to cook: with specific cupboards full of spices, specific utensils, and machines whose use allows us to employ our skills and knowledge in creative manners. Contexts could also be described as theater stages, which are platforms to give life to emotions, stories, journeys, evolutions, and reflections. They acquire the shape of the story directors and actors decide to bring to life, and they allow spectators to experience knowledge in a unique manner, through all of their senses.
Deciding on a context where the learning we are planning to bring to like will develop must not be taken lightly. When we being a plant into our homes, we meticulously choose where it will be placed; which means that previously we must have evaluated all the variables that may have an impact on it. Likewise, attending a social function may dictate what we should wear, how we should look, and how we must conduct ourselves. This is the power of contexts. Not only does a context provide direction to the learning process, but also comes accompanied by a series of ‘side dishes’ that allow us to establish connections, welcome ideas, concepts and processed from various areas of knowledge, and design learning outcomes that will require us to employ a specific set of skills.
The International Baccalaureate has identified 6 global contexts in the MYP, which serve as segue from the 6 Transdisciplinary Themes in the PYP.
These Transdisciplinary Themes or Global Contexts, as described in Making the PYP Happen (pag. 11), offer students the opportunity to explore the commonalities of human experience; are supported by knowledge, concepts and skills from the traditional subject areas but utilize them in ways that transcend the confines of these subjects, thereby contributing to a transdisciplinary model of teaching and learning.
Taking into account the possibilities for exploration each global context allows us to have, the following images capture a set of examples of the kind of explorations that can be conducted in each one. These are solely some ideas and must not be considered as the only approach to understand global contexts.
Moreover, since contextualized learning allows us to address learning in a more interdisciplinary and Transdiscipinary manner, a series of projects that could be carried out is shared below.
(The following examples can be found on a variety of websites and school pages. I credit Westchester Academy for International Studies)
Fairness and Development
- Supporting fair trade: Cocoa trade in Ghana; an awareness campaign for our school restaurant/cafeteria to promote fair trade
- Open-market economies and their role in fair trade; a talk for students
- Exploring the intersections of race and inequality; a radio broadcast
- Asylum seekers and their right to live like us; a painting
- Explore two different locations through the eyes of teenagers; a short film
Orientation in Space and Time
- The Euclidean space perspective of the universe; a 3D model
- Explorers in search of a new world; immigration over the ages through visual texts
- The Mayflower and the dream of religious freedom; a personal family history
- Charting a family history through archives and a representational statue
- Explore the development of rap as a style of music across continents
- Investigate how, in history, different cultures have made use of energy for different needs
Globalization and Sustainability
- The struggle for water in developing countries; an awareness campaign
- The impact of the financial crises of Europe and the European Economic Community on the United States; a visual presentation
- Education as the tool to change the future of Peru; a workshop for adults
- The role of the developing countries in protecting the tropical rain forest; a collection of slides
- Debate Herve Kempf’s ideas about “how the rich are destroying the earth?”; record it.
Identities and Relationships
- TWO sides of social networking; an awareness campaign about digital citizenship and cyber bullying
- How online identities impact offline relationships; a research essay
- Keeping culinary traditions; a video series following family recipes with historical relevance
- The effect of mass media on teenage identity; a short film
- Working with trained dogs for a special needs group; a documentary of the process to train & socialize the dogs
- Why does rap speak to me?; explore the emotional connection to rap
Personal and Cultural Expression
- The art of Manga in Japanese culture; a Japanese anime and a survey of the understanding of my peers
- Video games as a form of cultural expression; a short film with five video games showing how they are an expression of our culture
- Culture and self-expression through dance at the local community arts centre; a performance
- Perform a rap song for peers and have a question and answer session
Scientific and Technical Innovation
- Nano fibres build stronger bikes; a prototype bike with nano fibres.
- What’s the matter with the anti-matter?; an informational talk.
- Why are genetics and genomics important to my health?; a media presentation.
- Can stem cells replace organ transplants?; an investigative report.
- Design a 3D model of a solar device with instructions for construction.
MYP Personal Project examples highlighting specific Global Contexts
Learn to Swim Awareness: Personal Project
Personal Project: HIV/AIDS in Cambodia
Raising Awareness on the street kids of Kuala Lumpur
My Personal Project: Changing Lives with Dresses
MYP Personal Project: A Spark of Life